From OptimalScience

Mindfulness is a core concept of Optimal Work and the second of the three primary steps that bring somebody into full engagement with a task.

Preliminary Topic Outline

Psychological Definition

  • Ability to focus the mind on any one thought/sensation for an extended period of time
  • Noticing, and achieving mental "distance" from, uncomfortable thoughts or sensations, by accepting them
  • Three skills: noticing, feeling, and letting go (returning to task at hand)
  • Weakens the power that our emotions have over us, allowing us to act independently of them
  • Experiential willingness to feel discomfort associated with challenge and delve entirely into a task
  • The experiential side of reframing; stabilizes the reframe
  • Self-forgetfulness and allowing of oneself to be surprised

Neurological Perspective

  • Mindful attention results from successfully reframing a task
  • Limbic system is turned down and more deliberate functions of the brain are allowed to dominate
  • Inhibition of the amygdala's fear response and fight-or-flight
  • Improved executive function associated with mindfulness
  • Heart-rate variance and the parasympathetic nervous system
  • Relative deactivation of the default mode network and predominance of PFC and salience networks
  • Right brain over left brain: experiencing one's world as-it-is, not as a model

Mindfulness Techniques

  • Focusing entirely on the sensation of the breath (dynamic and static all at once)
  • Seeing attention as a precious liquid and returning the attention into that vessel whenever it moves away
  • Noticing one's thoughts and whether they concern the past or the future, or a different place
  • Selective noticing of sounds within a soundscape
  • Grounding exercises: feeling all the sensations of the body, starting with the feet
  • Imagining the body as a vessel through which air is moving, from the ground through the feet and out the head

Mindfulness and Work

[Does this merit its own section?]

  • Perhaps could go into an explanation of task, as opposed to default, attention

Long-Term Benefits of Mindfulness

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • See studies below

Limitations of Mindfulness

  • [Inchoate idea: mindfulness as still incomplete, with challenge completing the triad of OptimalWork]
  • Still needs challenge to reactivate the sympathetic nervous system and arrive in flow
  • Mindfulness allows us to forget ourselves in order that we might attend to others and our work
  • Flow, not merely mindfulness, accomplishes the brain changes associated with growth in skills and traits
    • Study with elderly people and retention of brain mass
    • ACh and norepinephrine [look for evidence]
  • Mindfulness less effective when engaged in for the purpose of eliminating negative emotions
  • Mindfulness does not incorporate the ideals of love and service for others, which are found in challenge

Psychological Definition

Neurological Perspective

Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness and Work

Long-Term Benefits of Mindfulness

Limitations of Mindfulness

Preliminary Literature



















  1. Wielgosz J, Goldberg SB, Kral TRA, Dunne JD, Davidson RJ. Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2019 May 7;15:285-316. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-021815-093423. Epub 2018 Dec 10. PMID: 30525995; PMCID: PMC6597263.
  2. Schutte NS, Malouff JM, Keng SL. Meditation and telomere length: a meta-analysis. Psychol Health. 2020 Aug;35(8):901-915. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2019.1707827. Epub 2020 Jan 5. PMID: 31903785.
  3. Sanada K, Montero-Marin J, Barceló-Soler A, Ikuse D, Ota M, Hirata A, Yoshizawa A, Hatanaka R, Valero MS, Demarzo M, Campayo JG, Iwanami A. Effects of Mindfulness-Based Interventions on Biomarkers and Low-Grade Inflammation in Patients with Psychiatric Disorders: A Meta-Analytic Review. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Apr 3;21(7):2484. doi: 10.3390/ijms21072484. PMID: 32260096; PMCID: PMC7177919.
  4. Thimm JC, Johnsen TJ. Time trends in the effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: A meta-analysis. Scand J Psychol. 2020 Aug;61(4):582-591. doi: 10.1111/sjop.12642. Epub 2020 Apr 21. PMID: 32319124.
  5. So WWY, Lu EY, Cheung WM, Tsang HWH. Comparing Mindful and Non-Mindful Exercises on Alleviating Anxiety Symptoms: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Nov 23;17(22):8692. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17228692. PMID: 33238594; PMCID: PMC7700675.
  6. Khoury B, Lecomte T, Fortin G, Masse M, Therien P, Bouchard V, Chapleau MA, Paquin K, Hofmann SG. Mindfulness-based therapy: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Clin Psychol Rev. 2013 Aug;33(6):763-71. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2013.05.005. Epub 2013 Jun 7. PMID: 23796855.
  7. Khoury B, Lecomte T, Gaudiano BA, Paquin K. Mindfulness interventions for psychosis: a meta-analysis. Schizophr Res. 2013 Oct;150(1):176-84. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2013.07.055. Epub 2013 Aug 15. PMID: 23954146.
  8. Lomas T, Ivtzan I, Fu CH. A systematic review of the neurophysiology of mindfulness on EEG oscillations. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015 Oct;57:401-10. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.09.018. Epub 2015 Oct 9. PMID: 26441373.
  9. Gotink RA, Meijboom R, Vernooij MW, Smits M, Hunink MG. 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction induces brain changes similar to traditional long-term meditation practice - A systematic review. Brain Cogn. 2016 Oct;108:32-41. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2016.07.001. Epub 2016 Jul 16. PMID: 27429096.
  10. McConville J, McAleer R, Hahne A. Mindfulness Training for Health Profession Students-The Effect of Mindfulness Training on Psychological Well-Being, Learning and Clinical Performance of Health Professional Students: A Systematic Review of Randomized and Non-randomized Controlled Trials. Explore (NY). 2017 Jan-Feb;13(1):26-45. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2016.10.002. Epub 2016 Oct 24. PMID: 27889445.
  11. Alsubaie M, Abbott R, Dunn B, Dickens C, Keil TF, Henley W, Kuyken W. Mechanisms of action in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in people with physical and/or psychological conditions: A systematic review. Clin Psychol Rev. 2017 Jul;55:74-91. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2017.04.008. Epub 2017 Apr 23. PMID: 28501707.
  12. Young KS, van der Velden AM, Craske MG, Pallesen KJ, Fjorback L, Roepstorff A, Parsons CE. The impact of mindfulness-based interventions on brain activity: A systematic review of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2018 Jan;84:424-433. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.08.003. Epub 2017 Aug 7. PMID: 28797556.
  13. Pascoe MC, Thompson DR, Jenkins ZM, Ski CF. Mindfulness mediates the physiological markers of stress: Systematic review and meta-analysis. J Psychiatr Res. 2017 Dec;95:156-178. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.08.004. Epub 2017 Aug 23. PMID: 28863392.
  14. Blanck P, Perleth S, Heidenreich T, Kröger P, Ditzen B, Bents H, Mander J. Effects of mindfulness exercises as stand-alone intervention on symptoms of anxiety and depression: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Behav Res Ther. 2018 Mar;102:25-35. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2017.12.002. Epub 2017 Dec 20. PMID: 29291584.
  15. Vignaud P, Donde C, Sadki T, Poulet E, Brunelin J. Neural effects of mindfulness-based interventions on patients with major depressive disorder: A systematic review. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2018 May;88:98-105. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.03.004. Epub 2018 Mar 13. PMID: 29548932.
  16. Nascimento SS, Oliveira LR, DeSantana JM. Correlations between brain changes and pain management after cognitive and meditative therapies: A systematic review of neuroimaging studies. Complement Ther Med. 2018 Aug;39:137-145. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2018.06.006. Epub 2018 Jun 19. PMID: 30012384.
  17. Parmentier FBR, García-Toro M, García-Campayo J, Yañez AM, Andrés P, Gili M. Mindfulness and Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety in the General Population: The Mediating Roles of Worry, Rumination, Reappraisal and Suppression. Front Psychol. 2019 Mar 8;10:506. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00506. PMID: 30906276; PMCID: PMC6418017.

This article has great references for recent literature on mindfulness, reframing (reappraisal), rumination and worry. Total support. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6418017/

An important study from 2013: Desrosiers A., Vine V., Klemanski D. H., Nolen-Hoeksema S. (2013). Mindfulness and emotion regulation in depression and anxiety: common and distinct mechanisms of action. Depress. Anxiety 30 654–661. 10.1002/da.22124 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4012253/

Also: Burg J. M., Michalak J. (2011). The healthy quality of mindful breathing: Associations with rumination and depression. Cogn. Ther. Res. 35 179–185. 10.1007/s10608-010-9343-x https://idp.springer.com/authorize/casa?redirect_uri=https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s10608-010-9343-x.pdf&casa_token=FPU_VUoowGwAAAAA:OmyRHtDmP4n0-m5-APlFOWgLH7snvEFbiCOp6RR9K0h7p0r5L_E0CUlwMQakVqcmNQMl5ErGaocRHno

Coffey K. A., Hartman M., Fredrickson B. L. (2010). Deconstructing mindfulness and constructing mental health: understanding mindfulness and its mechanisms of action. Mindfulness 1 235–253. 10.1007/s12671-010-0033-2 https://idp.springer.com/authorize/casa?redirect_uri=https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s12671-010-0033-2.pdf&casa_token=pjR48-uxiQ4AAAAA:sksAbk4SsTu_ChxLqdF7uRUkEsZVx9YDsrTLR93K-B-jk-aUCwFXtAb_10YR61tP9gliNoJQigZ0cpw https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4012253/